I met Addie last summer. She rode around in the car with me, and I fell in love with her 12-year-old self. She is funny, resilient, and in need of love and a stable home. I would have adopted her … Continue reading
Welcome today to author Jane Sutcliffe, who, as luck would have it, graciously agreed to answer some questions about writing for children. Jane has written over two dozen non-fiction books for young readers, and is an experienced presenter. Her school visit … Continue reading
Today marks the three year anniversary of the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. Last year, I worked through my sadness by writing a post titled “I’m Thinking Of You.” Today those words are on a field trip over on Mamalode.com. Won’t you please come have a look, and share the message?
Like me, you probably have friends and family that are so often on your mind and heart that you can have whole conversations with them without ever picking up the phone. I truly believe there are more positive vibes in this world than negative events.
To anyone struggling with sadness and challenges right now: You are not alone. You’d be surprised how many people are thinking of you right now.
And to the families of Newtown: We’re thinking of you not only today, but always.
Interested in turning your good thoughts into positive action? Click the links below to learn more.
“The reasons for gun violence are complex, but real change on a few issues could save lives.”
Text “ENOUGH” to 64433
“I promise to do all I can to protect children from gun violence by encouraging and supporting solutions that create safer, healthier homes, schools and communities.”
Sign their petition to pass mental health reform here.
26 ACTS – Changing the World one kind act at a time
“Do one act of kindness for each of the lives taken at Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14, 2012.
“Every action, no matter how small, helps us build safer communities and a brighter future. Together, we can end gun violence.”
Sponsoring Orange Walks to honor all of the lives taken by gun violence in America, and show just how determined we are to end it.
Consider writing your representatives in government to voice your concerns. Contact information is easy to find here:
“All Mothers are slightly insane.” – J.D. Salinger
Please click the link below and enjoy some of my craziness. Maybe it matches some of yours. If so, great! There is always room for more monkey brains in my jungle.
From the JacketFlap: “For the past five years, Hayley Kincain and her father, Andy, have been on the road, trying to outrun the memories that haunt them both. They moved back to Andy’s hometown to try a “normal” life, … Continue reading
Have you ever wondered what Clementine, Ramona, or Junie B. would be like in middle school? I hope they would stay spunky and turn out a lot like Maggie Mayfield, the main character in Megan Jean Sovern’s THE MEANING OF MAGGIE (Chronicle Books, 2014). In any case, I know they’d be friends with her!
Maggie is someone I was rooting for from the minute she wished her hospitalized dad would wake up so they could split a Little Debbie. (She’s willing to eat the whole thing herself, but she’d rather share). Then, I just – plop – fell in love with her when she was describing how amazing her first day of sixth grade was, including this:
“And lunch was the best because I got a whole table to myself so I spread out my notebooks and went to town on a stack of syllabi.”
She’s quirky, she doesn’t fit in, and she doesn’t care! She has much bigger things on her mind, such as her report on Sandra Day O’Connor, and her new friend, Clyde, “the most beautiful boy I’d ever seen.”
Underneath this layered, interesting character is a story of family bonds that are tested by parental illness. From the jacket flap:
Eleven years old. The beginning of everything!
For Maggie Mayfield, turning eleven means she’s one year closer to college. One year closer to voting. And one year closer to getting a tattoo. It’s time for her to pull herself up by her bootstraps (the family motto) and think about more than after school snacks and why her older sisters are too hot for their own good. Because something mysterious is going on with her cool dude Dad, whose legs have permanently fallen asleep, and Maggie is going to find out exactly what the problem is and fix it. After all, nothing’s impossible when you’re future president of the United States of America, fifth grade science fair champion, and a shareholder in Coca-Cola, right?
Maggie’s position as youngest child and her own personality leave her somewhat oblivious to the true reality of her dad’s worsening struggle with multiple sclerosis. She doesn’t have much time for her “hot, but not on a school night” older sisters, Layla and Tiffany, but we as readers can see how they help shelter her from their dad’s illness and mom’s return to work.
This is a serious book on a difficult topic, but the author makes you laugh out loud along the way. Maggie’s inner dialogue, highlighted by footnotes, made me feel like I was visiting with a real kid every time I picked up the book. And there is a clever connection at the ending, which made this a “clutch it in your arms and sigh when you finish reading it” kind of book for me. I recommend this book for kids in grades 5-7 ish, (or anyone who loves realistic middle grade novels.) It will be especially meaningful to readers who have been touched by MS. Ultimately, the unpredictable and relentless nature of the disease is woven into a story of strength and hope.
Don’t miss MAGGIE!
*Special thanks to Alyson Beecher and her wonderful book-based blog, Kid Lit Frenzy, for offering a copy of TMOM as a prize via Chronicle Books.*
Take one packed parking lot. Add a semi-legal parking space and a giant puddle. When shoes are properly muddied, dodge other frantic cars and head to the steaming hot auditorium.
Mix in one part little kid sweat smell, one part high-pitched yelps, and three parts exuberant excitement.
Carefully fold in a clean, pressed, white shirt and dark pants. Then untuck the shirt, wrinkle it, and drizzle some syrup on it.
Walk up and down the aisles until you find a wedge of seat you can balance on. Squeeze in. Fan self liberally with floppy program.
At this point you have the option of the following add-ins: screeching violins and/or microphone feedback, honking clarinets, almost-on-pitch horns, slightly off beat drums, one-measure-behind bells, unintelligible song announcements.
Once you have all this rolling at a slow boil, add in a front-row-hold-up-my-giant-Ipad-to-record-this parent. Have that parent stand up and sit down at unexpected intervals. Make sure their Ipad obscures the vision of almost everyone behind them.
For extra flavor, you can sprinkle in a few younger siblings who pop out of seats and walk back and forth in front of your row. This should happen at least four times. Stage-whispering and crinkly snack wrappers are a nice touch.
If your concert now has a slightly sour taste to it, scan the risers for your child. A smile and wave will result in a much more palatable blend. The blowing of a kiss will bring the sweetness to the next level.
Now add in one extremely talented choral director, a spirited strings teacher, and a rock-star bandleader. Shake them until they are fatigued but still smiling.
Your mix is now ready for the oven. As it bakes, the smells will waft over you and a sense of pride in what has been produced will well inside you. Clap loudly when done.
For a final garnish, add the tears of a sentimental sap who cannot hear children’s voices raised in song without emoting.
Leftovers should be served immediately to any parental unit unable to partake in the original dish.
During clean up, if you accidentally nick the side of the car of that front row parent, do not leave a note. They will be too busy never watching their recording to notice it.
My family has been taking a lot of personality tests lately. Guided by the kids and some silly online quizzes, I now know which Simpsons, Big Bang Theory, Downton Abbey, and Hunger Games character I am. I also know which Disney Princess I most emulate. My daughter, who is…headstrong…keeps trying to retake the quizzes and manipulate them to get the results she wants. But the facts don’t lie, and she’s always rerouted to her true persona.
The truth is, most people have a personality type that they gravitate to. This idea is the basis for Veronica Roth’s exciting dystopian YA novel, DIVERGENT (Katherine Tegen Books, May 2011).
From Veronica Roth’s website:
“In Beatrice Prior’s dystopian Chicago, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue—Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is—she can’t have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself. During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles to determine who her friends really are. But Tris also has a secret, one she’s kept hidden from everyone because she’s been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers a growing conflict that threatens to unravel her seemingly perfect society, she also learns that her secret might help her save those she loves… or it might destroy her.”
Yes, there’s a quiz for that. I took it, and found out that in Roth’s future world, I would be in Abnegation. No surprise. My family also fell along their party lines. (Pretty glad we don’t live in that society, as factions don’t mix, and I’d miss them!).
I’m fairly sure if we were all sorted today, Abnegation would be full of a lot of mothers. For most moms, giving selflessly feels natural, and right. It’s just what we moms do. But as the book points out, it can be dangerous to be only one thing, and to have only one way of living. If we are truly selfless all of the time, we’re going to end up in a big pile of dusty cranky resentment.
This year I’ve challenged myself to expand my giving, but just as importantly, to be more giving to myself. The three categories I’m working on are:
Big Ways to Give
This one includes things like monetary gifts, reaching beyond our country’s borders, and giving my time more freely.
Little Ways to Give
This is the one that’s easiest and I’m having the most fun with. This category is includes anything free, like smiling at a scowling person, or watering the plants in a household overrun by twin one-year-olds.
Giving to self
Okay, maybe this one is the most fun. You just have to get over that initial twinge of guilt. With practice, I am finding out that focusing on this category makes me much more likely to be able to participate in the Big and Little gives. (I know, duh.)
DIVERGENT is a great reminder that it’s dangerous to be just one thing. We all have the capacity to be intelligent, selfless, peaceful, brave, and honest. But if we’re always giving to others, it will be very hard to find that balance. So, for anyone waiting for a sign from the universe to take that class, that weekend away, that evening for yourself…this is it! Go for it! The people you care for will be better for it, and so will you.
Last night, my husband and I had our usual argument: who is more tired? It started 11 1/2 years ago when we became parents, and it’s always the same. Each of us is convinced that our current state of bone-crushing … Continue reading
I think about George Clooney a lot, but it’s not what you’re thinking. Well, sometimes it probably is what you’re thinking. Because, really. But honestly, most of the time it is because of his philanthropy work, and specifically something he said in an interview a few years ago.
The reporter asked him how giving back came to be such a large part of his life. And George (I’m assuming he’d want me to call him that) said that from a young age, his father always took the kids with him whenever he was volunteering for something. When the reporter asked if he’d enjoyed this, George answered honestly and said something like, “No, he dragged me kicking and screaming.” But he admitted that those early experiences helped influence how much he commits to philanthropic endeavors as a grown up.
Donated clothing items and outerwear were brand new, and each area had a trained volunteer that helped make sure we were picking out the correct sizes and items.
And then we came to MY toy area, the books! It was just so thrilling to pick out books for the children, especially after learning that some areas of the reservation do not have libraries.
The “book corner” volunteer had everything sorted according to age and reading level, and gave advice with the wisdom of a librarian (she probably was one!). I saw many new books that I’d have loved to have gotten my hands on myself.
Knowing what kind of shape my children’s books are in when they get around to being donated, I asked where so many pristine, new books had come from. The answer was that several of the books were purchased, at drastically reduced rates, from the organization First Book.
From their website: “First Book provides access to new books for children in need. To date, First Book has distributed more than 100 million books and educational resources to programs and schools serving children from low-income families throughout the United States and Canada. First Book is transforming the lives of children in need and elevating the quality of education by making new, high-quality books available on an ongoing basis.”
And while I’m tooting First Book’s horn, as many of you know there are other equally great programs that are working to get new books into the hands of kids who might not otherwise have access to them. Some of my favorites are: Book Train, which works to “[help] foster children discover great books – and keep them!” and Reading is Fundamental.
Rochelle pointed out that it is especially helpful when people donate money to hawkwing, because she can use that money to get so many more books through First Book than she can if the same donor bought books from a traditional retailer.
There are so many organizations and people using their powers for good in this world. Pick one and get involved! Donate or volunteer! You might just meet George Clooney!*
Also, if you are interested in current Native American culture, I encourage you to check out Sherman Alexie’s book, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, about growing up on the Spokane Indian Reservation. It’s a fantastic and eye-opening read.
*This is probably not going to happen. Sorry.